National and local activists and experts join Urban League for its Interrupt Racism Summit  

The Urban League of Rochester will host its third annual Interrupt Racism Summit Sept. 19 to 21. The three-day event includes virtual and in-person programming.  

The Urban League of Rochester will host its third annual Interrupt Racism Summit Sept. 19 to 21.
The Urban League of Rochester’s Interrupt Racism Summit will begin on Sept. 19.

This year’s event features a record-breaking nine keynotes from national thought leaders on issues relating to this year’s Summit theme “Enough is Enough: Action Steps for Ending Violence and Racism in Our Communities NOW.” 

Headlining this year and appearing in person on Sept. 20 are activists Tamika Mallory, one of the founders of the 2017 Women’s March, and Aqeela Sherrills, a leading expert for three decades on community-based strategies for combatting crime and gang activity. Also appearing live will be the National Urban League’s President and CEO Marc H. Morial.   

“We are delighted to have the privilege of hosting Tamika Mallory, Marc Morial and Aqeela Sherrills in person in Rochester,” said Seanelle Hawkins, president and CEO of the Urban League of Rochester. “These outstanding leaders are the best guides we could imagine for a special conversation about community-based action steps toward positive change.” 

Mallory, Sherrills and Morial are joined by over 40 other speakers and workshop facilitators on varied topics related to antiracism, including the legacy of redlining, addressing trauma, language access and creating an inclusive work environment.  

Go to for more information on the event.  

[email protected] / (585) 653-4021 

RASE Commission to launch community leadership phase of implementation plan

The county of Monroe and city of Rochester have launched an updated website for the Commission on Racial and Structural Equity (RASE) ahead of the Community Leadership phase of its implementation plan.

“The work of the Commission on Racial and Structural Equity continues, as we now enter the critical phase of working to engage our community members in implementing select recommendations from the report,” said County Executive Adam Bello in a statement. “Implementing these recommendations and dismantling structural inequities takes the efforts of all of us. I am so thankful to our nonprofit agencies, community coalitions and individual citizens for stepping forward and taking ownership for the implementation of some of the recommendations. It is due to the commitment of our staff and community partners that this report will not merely sit on a shelf.”

To ensure transparency around the implementation of the recommendations, a database has been added to the website that will include each working group recommendation as well as the responsible entity and a timeframe for implementation. In addition, there will be a mechanism to allow community members to get involved in the process and help with implementing the recommendations. Quarterly progress updates for listed recommendations will be posted within 30 days of the quarter’s end.

“Real progress toward racial equity can only be accomplished with a total community effort,” said Mayor Lovely Warren. “The city of Rochester has grown and improved to where it is by virtue of its involved citizenry and thanks to the input of our citizens and the members of the Commission on Racial and Structural Equity, our city and our county will be positioned to provide more jobs, safer, more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities.”

Outcomes of the community leadership phase include identifying gaps in recommendations that were not prioritized by the county or city, aligning with community stakeholders and organizational leaders, encouragement of assessment and prioritization of recommendations with the community and preparation to develop a formal council to manage the implementation of recommendations.

RASE recommendations include:
• Create and invest in sustainable economic opportunities in Black and Latinx communities to promote and maintain self-sufficiency, entrepreneurship and career advancement;
• Implement and incentivize practices and programs that increase the racial/ethnic diversity and cultural competence of employees, vendors and contractors;
• End practices that disproportionately drain resources from Black and Latinx communities;
• Decentralize services and embed them in trusted agencies throughout the community; and
• Embed accountability measures in all policies to ensure equity and fairness across all services, programs and delivery models.

RASE is an intergovernmental collaboration between the county of Monroe and city of Rochester. RASE was established to review, identify and recommend changes to local laws, policies and practices that will eliminate inequities across the county and city. The commission is co-chaired by former Rochester Mayor William Johnson Jr., ESL Federal Credit Union Senior Vice President and General Counsel Arline Santiago and Executive Director of the Brian and Jean Hickey Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue and professor of Islamic and religious studies at Nazareth College Muhammad Shafiq. The commission includes 21 business, government and community leaders.

The complete RASE report is available at

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City, county complete analysis of RASE report

The city of Rochester and the County of Monroe have completed their initial analysis of the recommendations made by the Commission on Racial and Structural Equity (RASE) report, which was presented to the community six weeks ago.

“The completion of this initial analysis allows us to assign responsibility for each of the recommendations to ensure that they are implemented for the benefit of our entire community,” said Cephas Archie, the lead for RASE Report implementation and chief equity officer for the city of Rochester. “We can now move forward and build the teams of community stakeholders necessary for success and create the benchmarks needed to measure our progress.”

Archie serves as the city’s lead representative, with Candice Lucas leading the county’s efforts, on a cross-governmental team to provide staff support and resources for the commission. RASE is comprised of 21 community members and is co-chaired by former Mayor William Johnson Jr.; Muhammad Shafiq, executive director of the Hickey Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue at Nazareth College; and Arline Santiago, senior vice president and general counsel for ESL Federal Credit Union.

Completion of the first “principle review” phase of the Commission’s work will guide the city and county’s development of an implementation plan for the report’s recommendations. The identification of which respective government would own specific recommendations and which ones would be jointly shared was conducted by leadership teams from both the city and the county.

The final implementation plan will include the identification of key stakeholders and benchmarks in support of the report’s six overarching themes. The review process encompassed an assessment of the recommendations made by the Commission’s nine working groups. The review also identified internal and external partners, required resources, tentative timelines for completion and principle personnel responsible for facilitating implementation efforts, monitoring progress and providing updates.

The six themes identified in the report include:
• Inequitable and inadequate access to essential resources and systems critical to closing equity gaps.
• Structures and protocols inequitably impact and disadvantage Black, Indigenous and other People of Color (BIPOC).
• Structures and personnel lack cultural/linguistic competencies critical for effective engagement.
• Systems create and perpetuate disadvantages.
• City/county structures lack reliable transparency and accountability operations, negatively impacting trust among BIPOC.
• Current city/county/state systems possess insufficient economic investment in structures and resources critical to attaining equity.

The commission developed five systemic solutions and nearly 40 specific recommendations. Solutions include creating and investing in sustainable economic opportunities in Black and
Latinx communities to promote and maintain self-sufficiency, entrepreneurship and career advancement; implementing and incentivizing practices and programs that increase the racial/ethnic diversity and cultural competence of employees, vendors and contractors; ending practices that disproportionately drain resources from Black and Latinx communities; Decentralizing services and embedding them in trusted agencies throughout the community; and embedding accountability measures in all policies to ensure equity and fairness across all services, programs and delivery models.

In their letter to the mayor and county executive that accompanied the 271-page report, Johnson, Santiago and Shafiq said that while they found few laws in the city and county that created and sustained racist policies, “we have found practices and conditions where diversity of race, ethnicity and gender are nearly non-existent; where people of color are unable to fully participate and are implicitly or explicitly excluded from opportunities that could enhance their economic, social and mental health; and where people of color are denied the opportunity to participate in the rule-making and decision-making that shapes our lives, from birth to death.”

Over the next several weeks, the city and county will compile their recommendation responses and provide a community update on implementation efforts.

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Irondequoit establishes racial equity commission

The Irondequoit Town Board has created the Irondequoit Commission Advancing Racial Equity (ICARE), a citizen-led commission charged with ensuring that Irondequoit is a community of respect and equality for all residents.

The Town Board passed a proclamation at its meeting on Oct. 20th to establish the commission, which will advise the Town Board to ensure that Irondequoit is a community where each individual is respected, valued and cherished regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion or cultural identity.

“Now more than ever, it is vital that governments examine how their policies may perpetuate existing inequalities and take proactive steps towards establishing a more just and inclusive community,” said Irondequoit Supervisor Dave Seeley. “As a town we have already taken recent proactive steps, such as requiring implicit bias training for all employees. I’m proud of our board’s commitment to racial justice and look forward to working in partnership with ICARE to ensure town government truly works for everyone who calls Irondequoit home.”

ICARE will serve as an advisory role to the Town Board and also will work with the board to help foster an environment of diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the Irondequoit community.

Seeley announced the appointment of three co-chairs to lead the effort including Irondequoit Councilwoman Patrina Freeman; Leslie Harvey, a foreclosure prevention outreach administrator at the Housing Council; and Margaret Burns, a longtime community volunteer with extensive experience in the human services fields.

Patrina Freeman
Patrina Freeman
Margaret Burns
Margaret Burns
Leslie Harvey
Leslie Harvey

“I’m proud of the town of Irondequoit and my fellow board members for creating ICARE so that we can continue the conversation on racial justice and equity,” said Town Board member Freeman. “Racism may not be as overt as it once was, but it is still a factor in the lives of people of color, our town and in our larger society. We can’t change the world or our country in one day, but we can begin that change by walking the walk right here in our own backyard, and I’m excited to do just that.”

The three co-chairs, working with the Town Board, will appoint 12 additional Irondequoit residents to serve as ICARE committee members to help spearhead the commission’s work. The board’s resolution sets the expectation that the commission’s membership be compromised of a majority of persons of color.

ICARE’s three committees will work to develop policies, programs and best practices to address economic opportunity and empowerment; diversity, equity and inclusion; and community engagement. Each committee also will include a number of volunteer members, also comprised of members of the Irondequoit community. An interim report will be submitted to the Town Board in 2021.

“I value the work that has been charged to the Irondequoit Commission Advancing Racial Equity and respect the task ahead,” Burns said. “Growth cannot happen without self-examination. I believe ICARE will help support the Town to move towards a more inclusive future, by elevating both existing and new policies in a way that will promote racial justice and equity for all.”

ICARE will begin an open application process to select its committee members. Residents can apply by completing the online Interest Survey available. Physical copies of the survey also available at the reception desk of Irondequoit Town Hall.

“These are some very difficult times for us as a nation, with racial unrest, racial inequities, and police brutality, but yet I am hopeful for a better tomorrow,” Harvey said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the town of Irondequoit in this capacity and so proud that we, Supervisor Seeley, Councilwoman Freeman and town leadership are taking a bold stance against the ugliness of racism. We can make a huge difference in our town just by taking the opportunity to have some meaningful dialogue with our constituents.”

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Racial Equity Challenge coming to Finger Lakes

Businesses and organizations in the Finger Lakes Region will have an opportunity to improve racial equity through a new initiative convened by the United Way of Greater Rochester Inc.

Greater Rochester’s 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge will begin Oct. 23 and end Nov. 20. Organizations can sign on to the free challenge beginning Oct. 6.

Originally developed by racial justice educators Eddie Moore Jr., Marguerite Penick-Parks and Debby Irving, the program has been embraced by a coalition of local leaders and is being adapted for the Finger Lakes Region.

Through broad community engagement, the 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge will increase awareness of critical issues and strengthen the community’s capacity to dismantle all forms of racism, officials said. Self-directed learning opportunities will encourage a deeper understanding of race, power, privilege and leadership.

The United Way in recent weeks has received a deluge of calls seeking support to help business and organization staff to better understand and support diversity, equity and inclusion. In fact, communities nationwide have issued 21-Day Racial Equity Challenges in an effort to broaden the discussion and understanding of racial equity.

As Rochester becomes more attuned to the problem of racial injustice, business leaders can leverage the interest and awareness of their employees to increase understanding and education around racial equity. The challenge will provide staffers with demonstrated tools and resources to learn and take action to support a more racially just workplace and community, officials said.

United Way is working with partner organizations that focus on racial equity including the Racial Equity Justice Initiative, Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, YWCA of Rochester and Monroe County, Rochester Area Community Foundation and the Urban League of Rochester NY Inc. to shape the content of the challenge and the United Way will provide the backbone support.

More than 45 partners already have signed on based on initial conversations, officials said. Both the Rochester Business Journal and the Daily Record are partnering in the challenge.

The 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge is done through a daily email that will focus on a specific topic, with links to articles, videos and podcasts that will help participants expand their personal perspectives on equity along with information and links to local resources, initiatives and ways to turn education into action. A daily commitment of 10 to 15 minutes will be supplemented with virtual opportunities for group reflection and instructions for employers on initiating meaningful conversations within their organizations.

Organizations can sign up beginning Oct. 6 at

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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Racism exhibit returns to RMSC

The “Take It Down! Organizing Against Racism” traveling exhibit has returned to its home at Rochester Museum & Science Center.

This exhibit, about the Dentzel Menagerie Carousel panel, discusses racism in the past and today, and inspires new dialogues about actions that can be taken in Rochester to work toward social justice for all, RMSC officials said. The exhibit, which is appropriate for all ages, is a continuation of an ongoing educational process in the Rochester community to create meaningful and sustained dialogue on individual, institutional and structural racism, with the goal of making concrete, measurable impacts on racism.

“It’s important to bring the ‘Take It Down! Organizing Against Racism’ exhibit into the community annual as a tribute to Minister Franklin D. Florence Sr. and others who worked hard to make its development possible,” said representatives from the Take It Down planning committee. “In addition to serving as a reminder of the fact that racism is still alive and well, it’s proof-positive of the fact that it can be impacted by way of community organizing.”

In 2016, a panel featuring racist artwork was removed from the Dentzel Carousel at Ontario Beach Park in Rochester, after being on display for 111 years. The issue generated controversy in the community. The Take It Down planning committee created the exhibit to show that pickaninny art perpetuates ongoing individual, institutional and structural racism by denying the humanity of black children

The exhibit has traveled across Rochester, making stops at the Central Church of Christ and F.I.G.H.T. Village. It now is on display alongside the museum’s “Objectively Racist: How Objects and Images Perpetuate Racism … And What We Can Do to Change It” exhibit on the second floor.

The returning exhibit includes images, product packaging, knick-knacks and other objects that perpetuate individual, institutional and structural racism, and dissects the significance of them, officials noted. Community member Doug Belton Sr. loaned the objects to the museum for display with the intention of donating them to the RMSC collection.

“(This imagery) has existed a long time and a lot of it was made here in New York State. Not only was it degrading, it was a way to make money for a lot of companies, especially food and tobacco companies,” Belton said. “A lot of people think that racism and racist objects only exist down south, but it happened all over.”

By repurposing harmful, racist images as tools used for anti-racism education, Belton, the Take It Down planning committee and RMSC hope to empower visitors to recognize, question and confront racism and racist imagery they see out in the world, from grocery stores to playgrounds.

“The ultimate value of the exhibit is its immeasurable worth as an effective teaching-tool, relative to understanding the historical and ongoing existence, nature and manifestations of individual, institutional, and structural racism,” planning committee members said.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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Abdul-Jabbar stops by UR to talk about a ‘new equality’

Kareen Abdul-Jabbar will speak at the University of Rochester on Monday. (Nikara Johns)
Kareen Abdul-Jabbar will speak at the University of Rochester on Monday. (Nikara Johns)

He was considered the best basketball player of all time. And after six seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks and 14 with the Los Angeles Lakers during its 1980s dynasty era, Kareem Abdul- Jabbar went on to act, advocate, write, teach, and even dance.

On Monday night, Abdul-Jabbar will deliver the first lecture in the University of Rochester series, “Dean’s Initiative: Difficult Conversations as a Catalyst for Change.” His talk, which takes its title from his 2016 book, “Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White,” written with Raymond Obstfeld, has sold out.

Abdul-Jabbar, 71, however, offered to answer some questions from the Rochester Business Journal ahead of time by email and the following is what transpired.

RBJ: In your book on racial matters, you say that if you’d been a foot shorter, you’d have ended up as a history teacher instead of a world-famous basketball player. Which of those roles do you feel would have impacted young people more? Or more young people?

KAJ: It’s fun to speculate about that, but there’s no way of knowing. Part of it depends on what you mean by impact. As a successful basketball player, I’ve probably impacted hundreds or thousands of young athletes to strive to become better players. Since retiring as a player, I like to think my writing has made me something of a teacher. I’ve written history books for adults, young adults, and children with the goal of informing them about some of the most brilliant and creative black people often overlooked in mainstream history books. I’ve traveled around the country visiting schools in support of STEM (Science, technology, engineering and math) education and I have started Camp Skyhook, which takes kids out of the city for a week learning about science in an outdoor setting. I don’t know which has had the bigger impact, but I’m satisfied that I was able to have any impact at all.

RBJ: We are such a polarized nation right now. How can your thoughts on race reach people who don’t necessarily think/look/act/believe like you? Do you have hope we can change things?

KAJ: If I didn’t have hope, I wouldn’t continue speaking out about what ails us and what the remedies might be. Any student of history can tell you that everything is cyclical, which sadly, makes the divisiveness predictable. The country is faced with big changes—climate change, a less white population, terrorism from within and without—and that causes fear. Fear makes us turn to despots who promise to make our fears go away through direct action. Again, history shows that such promises and such actions are ineffective, but fear clouds logic. If we want to avoid this kind of cowering in a corner while blustering to the world so they don’t see how afraid we are, we have to teach intensive critical thinking throughout our children’s schooling in the same way we inoculate them against disease. This will inoculate them against the emotional manipulation used by politicians and others to control them. In the meantime, all marginalized people must come together to support others who are in the same position because we are so much stronger together. Muslims, Jews, Christians, the LGBTQ community, women, and others have to see that our main agenda is to end discrimination in all forms, and that can only be done together.

RBJ: Why Mycroft rather than Sherlock? (He has written two novels, with Anna Waterhouse, about the older brother of the enduring fictional character, Sherlock Holmes.)

KAJ: I love how Mycroft always worked in the shadows, using his intellect like a chess master to protect England. Even Sherlock described him as being smarter than Sherlock, so I liked the challenge of writing him as being super-smart, yet also an adventurer. Plus, the fact that so little is known about Mycroft from Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels and stories meant I was free to create him any way I wanted to.

RBJ: What were the best and worst things about being on Dancing with the Stars?

KAJ: The best part was learning how to do something I’d never done before. Dancing the cha-cha and salsa were extremely challenging, especially when my partner, Lindsay Arnold, was more than a foot shorter than I am. But she was such a wonderful teacher that I had a blast hoofing around the stage with her. A few years ago, I did a diving show and had the same experience of learning how to do something new while getting into the best shape of my life. Of course, I knew going in that I wasn’t going to win, or even come close, but I got to entertain America for a few nights, reconnect with my old fans in a fun way, and learn how to do something new.

RBJ: What advice would you give to anyone who has a time limit on their first career and needs to reinvent themselves?

KAJ: Athletes specifically train their whole lives knowing that their careers have an expiration date. So, it’s important that they simultaneously develop other interests. That’s why education is so crucial: it exposes you to so many different ideas and career possibilities. It can uncover skills and talents you never knew you had. I’ve always admired athletes who have continued their education during their pro careers because they understood that the world is much bigger than sports and there’s only so long you can live off former glories. Don’t let fear of failure inhibit your choices. Find something that inspires passion in you as much as your sport did.

[email protected]/(585) 363-7275

Race, Responsibility and Leadership event rescheduled

Debby Irving
Debby Irving

A two-day event to discuss business, leadership and race has been rescheduled for December.

Noted Cambridge, Mass., speaker and educator Debby Irving will join several area business leaders to describe her struggle to understand racism and racial tensions. Irving will describe how she has changed the way she works in racially mixed groups.

The event, originally scheduled for October, was canceled due to illness.

“Race, Responsibility and Leadership: Blind Spots and Lessons” will be presented Dec. 7 at St. John Fisher College. Irving will lead participants in an exploration of the topic of race, how it relates to participants personally and how it impacts their ability to make clear and informed decisions as leaders.

A morning session at the college the following day, titled A Deeper Dive into Leadership and Race: The Beliefs We Hold, the Decisions We Make, will include panelists Bill Carpenter, CEO of Regional Transit Service; Aki Henderson, general manager of Henderson Ford; and Kelly Tovar Mullaney, founder and president of Working Art Media.

Using a series of pointed questions, Irving will work with participants to build a graphic map of the groups to which people belong because of social locations and historical roles in U.S. society. There will be opportunities throughout for group discussion, questions and challenges.

The two workshops are sponsored by Expanding Events and corporate sponsors include Bergmann Associates, Leadership Coaching Inc. and the Rochester Area Community Foundation.

Tickets are available by visiting

Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer